Romance after 50, or 60 or … ?

I am a baby boomer.

When I began The Return of Joy I was a newlywed, and wrote in part to capture the romance in my life. I was sure no one else could be so in love, so struck by romance so I found a way to weave some of my experiences into Joy’s story.

By the time I finished the book I was 60 years old. And I decided there needed to be another romance in the book. Because my husband and I have now been married almost 38 years and there is still a lot of sizzle in our romance, I decided to put a love interest into the book for Evelyn, Joy’s older friend (her mother-in-law from her first marriage).

And there was already an older man in the story, a neighbor, so why not?

Because love is not just for the young. Romance doesn’t end as you get older. If you care enough to continue to find ways to keep the fires burning, they do continue to burn.

Here is an excerpt from the romance between Evelyn and Jonas:

They rounded a bend that would take them the last few yards to the cabin, and a less than peaceful sight met them. Atlas gave a low bark and trotted ahead, then looked back over his shoulder at them. He didn’t seem to want to get too close to a fracas between Evelyn, with Charity clinging to her legs, and a gray-haired gentleman on the front porch.

Evelyn waved a spatula in the air. Even before she heard her friend’s words, Joy knew she was angry. Charity twirled her hair and sucked her thumb — sure signs of insecurity.

“I don’t know who you think you are,” she said as they came closer. “No one takes over my kitchen unannounced. Now, you knock like any other guest would do, and I’ll decide whether we want to see you again.”

Evelyn scooped Charity up in her arms, stormed into the house, and slammed the door behind her. The lock clicked. Joy turned to Mark with raised eyebrows, wondering about his reaction to the whole unlikely scene.

He looked as if he were about to burst as he tried to keep from laughing out loud. He had a twinkle in his eyes and an odd tilt to his head. He called out, “Good morning, Jonas.”

The older man turned slowly, an answering spark of humor flaring in his eyes. Jonas was tall and slim. He had on walking shorts and a hat, and he carried a carved walking stick. His full beard was almost white, with reddish streaks among the gray that indicated he used to be a redhead, and his bushy brows still held some color. He reached out a hand to fondle Atlas’ head as he spoke.

“Sure wish you’d warned me about…” He nodded toward the closed door. “Those now occupying the cabin. Guess I got myself off to a pretty rough start with that one.”

“What on earth happened?” Joy asked in amazement. “I’ve never seen Evelyn anything but calm and collected. You sure got under her skin.”

“I did, indeed, much to my regret.” He tapped his walking stick on the ground and looked off toward the mountains instead of at Joy. A long pause fell before he continued, as if he were puzzling through the scene himself. “I, um, tend to make myself at home here. I went directly to the kitchen to make coffee, because, as you know, you don’t usually have my preferred beverage prepared.” He nodded wryly at Mark. “So my habit is to start coffee first when I come to visit.”

He cleared his throat, and Joy frowned. He seems nervous.

“Apparently I startled the lady of the house when I made a sudden appearance in what she’s apparently come to consider her kitchen.” He nodded again toward the closed door, then paused a moment, as if trying to look serious. The light in his blue eyes gave him away. “I sincerely hope the subsequent lecture on manners did not result in her burning your breakfast. The pancakes looked quite good.”

He turned to Joy, held out his hand, and glanced to Mark. “Speaking of manners — an introduction might smooth things here, my friend,” he said graciously. Joy remembered the humor in Mark’s expression when he’d called this stately gentleman an old coot, and smiled. This was no mountain recluse, but a man of obvious refinement and culture.

“Joy, this is Jonas Reynolds. Jonas, Joy Huffman.”

Joy extended her hand, appreciating Jonas’ firm, warm grasp and the light in his eyes.

“Well, my friend, I deduce the lady inside the house wasn’t expecting me.” Jonas shook his head. “Not a good start to our acquaintance, eh?”

“I’ve never seen her so rattled,” Mark admitted. He looked thoughtful. “She’s one of the most in-control women I’ve ever known. This is exceptionally odd.”

“Maybe I can help out with your little… um, dilemma,” Joy offered. “Why don’t you two visit for a few minutes?” She patted Mark’s arm, offered Jonas a smile, and then gestured toward the pasture. “Go for a short walk, catch up on the news, and don’t come back for half an hour. By then, we’ll have breakfast on the table.” She hesitated slightly. “I hope.”

She shook her head and started up the steps.

“I’m sure Evelyn was just startled.” Joy continued up the steps, waving the men away. “She’ll be fine once I’ve explained who you are. Now go away and let me settle things here.”

She waited at the door until the men turned away. Then she knocked and called out, “Evelyn, I’m alone and I want in — I sent them away.”

After a long pause, the door opened just a crack and Evelyn peered out at the receding backs of the two men, Atlas on their heels, then widened the door in silence and turned back to the kitchen as Joy slipped inside.

“Lock the door,” Evelyn said over her shoulder when she didn’t hear the bolt go home. “I don’t trust that skunk. He’ll probably come back.”

Joy pressed her lips together to hold back her laughter. What had gotten into Evelyn? Shaking her head, she followed the other woman into the kitchen. She refrained from commenting on the smell of burned pancakes and poured a cup of tea while Evelyn beat the batter for another batch. She beat it rather hard and fast, Joy noted. She glanced at Charity, who watched them both from her booster seat with wide eyes, her thumb in her mouth, twisting at her hair. Joy pulled up a chair close to her daughter, gave her a hug, and chatted with her while she poured a little cereal onto the table.

Charity relaxed and picked up the cereal one piece at a time to pop into her mouth. Evelyn’s back was to them, her shoulders still stiff with anger. She poured the fresh batter onto the griddle. Without a word, Joy rose and poured an additional cup of tea and set it in front of the other woman. She noted that Evelyn’s hands shook, and her color was high. Joy guessed embarrassment, not anger, plagued the older woman.

Evelyn set the spatula on the counter after she turned the perfectly browned pancakes, then sipped her tea. She sighed and faced Joy, who was surprised by the tears in Evelyn’s eyes.

“Fool,” Evelyn muttered, pushing her silver and blond curls back with one hand and taking another long sip of tea. “I’m a fool. I can’t believe I reacted to him so strongly. Must be hormones. They make a woman crazy, you know.” She attempted a smile, set down her tea, and rubbed her eyes with the heels of both hands. “I hate this.”

Joy kept quiet, pouring juice for each of them, then setting another place at the table.

Evelyn’s sharp eyes took in her action. She shook her head. “Wait a minute. Are you telling me, after I embarrassed myself so completely, that I have to face that man again?”

Joy nodded. “Sooner or later, yes. He’s Mark’s friend, Jonas. He’ll continue to come around no matter what you want. Don’t you want to get to know him?”

Evelyn sighed again, moved the finished pancakes onto a serving plate, and poured more batter for the next batch. She fanned her burning cheeks with one hand.

“He scared the life out of me,” she confided. “I suppose I’m on edge — Mark told me we shouldn’t come up here because it might not be safe — and he scared me, not only because he was a stranger in the kitchen, although that startled me enough…” Her voice trailed off. Joy waited for her to continue. “And not just because of the noise.”

She nodded toward the counter, where the aroma of freshly ground coffee wafted toward them from the grinder. “He stood there with his back to me, grinding the coffee. I rushed in to see what the noise was. I knew you weren’t here — I’d seen you from upstairs just a minute before.”

Joy wasn’t surprised Evelyn had been watching them. The other woman sipped her tea and turned with a sigh to finish making coffee for their guest.

“I can’t explain it.” Evelyn’s voice grew puzzled, her mouth curved into a frown, and her brows pulled together in thought. “I can’t explain it, but I knew him. As if I’d dreamed of this before. His back to me, tall and straight, the roar of the grinder. I knew he had a beard before he even turned around. In that flash of first contact, I knew him, and–” Evelyn broke off, covered her face with her hand, and dropped her voice to a whisper. “And I-I wondered if he might break my heart. He scared me.”

Speechless, Joy stared at Evelyn. She’d never heard her friend talk about men. Her first husband, Steve’s dad, had been gone long before Joy met her and she hadn’t seemed interested in any others. She’d never even commented on what actors she found attractive.

Evelyn continued quietly, “To see a fantasy alive and well in the kitchen shook me. So I lost all reason and chased him away.” When she turned back to Joy, her eyes had turned mournful. “How do I explain when he comes back in here with Mark?”

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